The Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), a syncretistic occult group, has experienced widespread defections and schisms since the withdrawal of its leader Elizabeth Clair Prophet, according to an article in the current issue of the Cultic Studies Review (Volume 2, Number 1).
CUT was a controversial yet growing movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, known for blending teachings from New Thought and Theosophy with other occult elements, with a communal lifestyle that had apocalyptic undertones. Prophet and earlier leaders of the groups were considered messengers who channeled the teachings of “ascended masters” to followers.
Joseph Szimhart writes that by the mid-1990s, there was increasing conflict over CUT’s structure, with attempts to democratize the leadership, and to rethink the role and the validity of the messengers in the group, particularly after Prophet suffered from dementia in the late 1990s. “Since the demise of the messenger [Prophet], the CUT community has not only experienced a free fall of defections, but several factions have emerged.” Some have gone independent, such as the Tuscon, Ariz.-based Temple of the Presence, which has established its own messenger.
Szimhart concludes that while CUT still actively promotes its teachings through retreats, books and videotapes, the group will “likely settle in the American religious landscape among other “New Age sects” with a relatively small number of 1,000 to 3,000 members.
(Cultic Studies Review, http://www.culticstudiesreview.org)